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Rock Center With Brian Williams

News/Business. Harry Smith, Kate Snow, Ted Koppel. (2012) Political commentators Bill O'Reilly, Bill Maher and Ann Coulter; end-of-life medical care; actor Steve Buscemi. New. (CC) (Stereo)

NETWORK
NBC

DURATION
01:00:00

RATING

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel 88 (609 MHz)

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
1920

PIXEL HEIGHT
1080

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Steve Buscemi 10, Rita 9, Us 6, Obama 5, America 5, Ted Koppel 5, Harry Smith 5, Motorola 4, Buscemi 4, Rita Crundwell 4, Fbi 4, The City 3, Citi 3, Ann Coulter 3, Antietam 3, Atlantic City 3, At&t 3, Lte 2, Illinois 2, Honda 2,
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  NBC    Rock Center With Brian Williams    News/Business. Harry Smith, Kate Snow, Ted Koppel.  (2012)  
   Political commentators Bill O'Reilly, Bill Maher and Ann...  

    September 20, 2012
    10:00 - 11:00pm PDT  

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please, step up. $200 cash up front. >> tonight on "rock center," ted koppel takes on the noise that >> also tonight he has gone just from being that guy. >> what about that smell? >> to a leading man, the star of
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"boardwalk empire" "boardwalk empire" -- steve buscemi and is unlikely stardom an what people say about his looks. >> the description, snagle tooth, bug eyed. they always have to say that. >> after a while does it hurt your feelings? >> after a while, it's like, do i look like that? >> harry smith reports on the small town girl, turned world champion horse woman who tonight stands accused of stealing more than $50 million in taxpayer money. if you had a chance to talk to rita, what would you say to her? >> i would tell her, i hope you go to prison for the rest of your life. >> plus the bloodiest day in american history and why we can look at it differently now. that and more as "rock center" gets under way. good evening, and welcome, there are 46 days remaining until the election. and thus far this week's political news has been dominated by the video of an unvarnished mitt romney speaking to a room full of supporters, comments he thought would stay in the room.
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then there was the counter attack from the right, the tape of barack obama from 14 years ago, saying he believes in redistribution. last week here, ted koppel looked into the world of media monitoring, the business of calling people out, tonight he looks at the media, the volume and vitriol, in particular of the partisan news media some of whom have gone from watch dogs to combatants as we said in the course of one american generation. >> the communist party leaders of east germany -- >> once there were only three networks and the evening news anchors told you what was important it was as "the new york times" medial columnist, david carr, a shared national experience. >> i am catholic so i viewed them through a clerical lens and saw them as other than not having collars on as high priests of the truth. >> and that's the way it is. >> no, that's the way it was. this is the how it is. >> don't, don't, look stop the
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bs here! stop the crap! >> bill o'reilly whose contempt for those he calls pin heads put fox news on the map is not normally quite this rough on his guests. does that offend you? >> does it offend me? it offends me when you are rude. it offends me when you ride over people which you have a tendency to do. >> but i only do it when they filibuster or when they lie, as barney frank did that one time. >> barney frank, obviously would disagree. >> you are a coward! you blame everybody else! you are a coward! >> here's the problem going on your show, you start ranting. >> it works on cable, what about o'reilly on one of the old broadcast networks. >> all right, bill, here is the deal. you get a call from your agent, and he says, you know i just got off the phone with nbc, diane sawyer is retiring, they want you to be the next anchor. money is not going to be a problem.
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what do you do? >> i don't do it. >> because? >> too boring. >> why? >> it would not be nearly as much fun as teeing the world off every night here and having all the reaction and being able to do all the things i could never do in a hard news broadcast. >> we used to think of newscasters as finders of fact, objective fact. now we have what i see as truth tellers, problem is they're all sort of retelling their own version of truth. >> i designed the o'reilly factor. because i knew the technology was going to allow for 24-hour cable news shows, network, i am going to have to fill the time. >> he is sort of the king of the direct address where he turns into the camera and says. >> he wants me, and high income folks to finance a massive redistribution of wealth in this country. >> every single night he is in the business of saying how it is. >> so there is no question that affluent americans are paying their fair share and carrying a
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heavy load. i just have taken my presentation from new york that the nuns used to scorn and i have made millions and millions of dollars. >> have a right to be in this country. >> that has the nothing to do -- >> yes, it does! >> o'reilly is loud and over the top. >> obama is -- >> a cold-hearted fat slob anyway. >> the bar for civility on cable television and talk radio has fallen so low that by comparison, o'reilly seems almost reasonable. talk about the folks who take it too far. you and i had a phone conversation a couple weeks ago. you used a term that really resonated with me. you called a couple of people assassins. >> sure, you can make money by assassinating people that differ
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from you. there is the success that wants everybody to come into the tent and watch. all right. that's me. then there is the success where you make money speaking to the choir, the haters. all right. so if you are a liberal they hate george w. bush. they hate him. you smash him every single day. same thing on the other side. they hate president obama, you smash him. you don't care what the truth is. look for ways to smash them. you don't care what the truth eyes just want to smash him. you can make a lot of money doing it and if you do it loud enough and vicious enough. and that's what happened. once cable news went up you had some of the people come in. some of them have washed out. some of them haven't. and -- it's nasty. >> ann coulter calls herself the conservative ayatollah faults o'reilly for not being opinionated enough. >> bill o'reilly is not opinion ated? >> not a partisan side. believes in global warming, for gun control, loves obama. he has the opinion he is the
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world's greatest journalist. he is not opinioned on the conservative side and he would agree with that assessment. >> look, president obama is not a man. he is not a communist. he doesn't want to hurt the nation. he wasn't born in kenya. he is not, all these things that a lot of the people on the right, far right are trying to sell. he is not. he is a committed liberal guy who believes that big government can impose social justice. do i believe that? no. but i don't dislike him or disrespect him for his sincerely held beliefs. that's what the difference between what i do and what these other guys do, the demagogues. >> talk about the impact of that on our political process? >> it coarsens it and then makes it acceptable to lodge charge that you have no backup for at anybody. i have been villified to the extent i have to have bodyguards everywhere i go. do you have bodyguards? >> never have. >> nobody wants to hurt you.
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>> nobody cares. >> not that. it's just you haven't taken a strong ideological opinion on any issues. once you do they will try to hurt you. they, being the demagogues. that's wrong. >> if we tried a paternity test there would be a lot of folks out there that would look upon you as being their ideological dad. do you buy that? >> well, yeah, if you are going to be successful in national television, you are going to have immitators, look, let's be honest here. not as many people are as obnoxious as i am. >> he may have a point there. ted has others who raise it to a more acute art form. we will have that part of the story coming up next. ♪ you. we know you. we know you have to rise early... and work late, with not enough sleep in between.
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news media that agree with you when you wake up in the morning, right or left. that is the subject of ted koppel's reporting tonight. he and others feel it is corrosive and does nothing to help compromise in this country. here now, part two of ted's reporting. >> reporter: once upon a time in a kinder gentler age, jon stewart visited the land of cnn at a place called "crossfire." >> why do you argue? the two of you. i hate to see it. >> he tried to make peace between the warring pundits. >> here is what i want to tell you guys -- >> yeah? >> stop. stop, stop, stop, stop hurting america. >> that was two presidential election cycles back. and now. >> you are one, sick, miserable, evil, sob. >> now things are worst.
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>> the very stupidest in mitt romney's life tonight is mitt romney. >> the partisan ranting is more widespread than ever, primarily because it's hugely profitable. >> fox news channel. >> fox news says david carr pulls in well over $1 billion a year. >> $1 billion every single year. from a runway that nobody thought existed. >> that is a partisan news network with the slogan "fair and balanced." >> msnbc, after a while, just said, well there is -- there has got to be a great business in being a counterveiling force to that. if that business is that big, $1 billion a year in profits. what if we were only half that big that would seem fine to me. >> these are some of the cable stars who bring in the big bucks. they're not normally shy about
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expressing their opinions, but, their bosses, the presidents of fox and our sister network, msnbc, wanted no part of this conversation. and also declined on behalf of their on-air talent. the one exception, bill o'reilly, who acknowledged the danger in those he called the demagogues. the assassins. >> what is it going to take for you people to wake up? >> among those o'reilly points to, michael savage. >> they want you to speak spanish, act muslim. give up going to the church, going to a mosque, this is not going to go on in this country much longer. we are going to have a revolution in this country if this keeps up. these people are pushing the wrong people around. watch extreme fighting and see what the white male is capable of. >> reporter: the british government found savage so offensive that they barred hem from entering the united kingdom. the worst of the rancid drivel is so inflammatory we won't use it. >> because the rage reached the boil. >> reporter: his book, the savage nation was a number one
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best-seller, his program by the same name is the third most listened to radio talk show in the united states. david carr calls it the marketing of fear. >> it is a feeling of we are here in the bunker, they're after us, and -- >> mark levine, even, the announcer who introduces mark "and now -- >> and now broadcasting from the underground command post, deep in the bowels of the hidden bunker. >> operating from the mythical command post, when vine was able to influence voters in texas helping the candidate win the gop primer. >> i want to thank sean hannity, mark levine, the great one. >> olympia snow, senior republican senator from maine is not running for another term. she's walking away in disgust. because bipartisanship is out of
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fashion. here she is with steny hoyer, the number two democrat in the house. >> today's journalists, too often, because it is profitable to do so and it builds audiences see their job not to inform but to incite. to get people riled up. to get their juices running. >> we understand what it is all about. the cable news outlets they have created a niche in the marketplace. it is very competitive. if some are in the business for entertainment, for example, that's their job. our job is to solve problems. >> people tend to watch the channel that doesn't give them facts. doesn't make them think, but makes them think that their views are the views. they're accurate. and the other guys are bad, dumb, wrong, the enemy if you will. >> reporter: smart, stubborn and ideological opposites, bill mahr
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and ann coulter did sit down and demonstrated the to futility of trying to bridge the gap. >> in the old days, u may have felt we were too liberal. those of you that were -- >> yes, you still are. >> you have no idea what my thoughts are. all you know is what i am asking you. you may think we were too liberal. but we strove to keep at least a public objectivity. really did. >> right, the appearance of objectivity pushing a left wing agenda. i think it is the first time a lot of liberals have been able to hear conservatives or know what they think. >> vice versa. >> no, you can't get away from the liberal sound machine. always read "the new york times." >> the times, all things considered, the times its a pretty damn good newspaper. >> no! >> no? name a great news organization. >> fox news. >> the bifurcation is really extreme. i mean the left is for the left. the right is for the right.
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>> left is not further left. the left is further right. see this is the problem that the media makes. the left is not further left. the republicans keep staking out this a further and further ground to the right. and then demanding that the democrats meet them in the center. except it is not the center anymore. it's center right. that's what obama is. to call him a socialist? he is not even a liberal. >> i could and maybe will, take what you say and what ann coulter said, she is the mirror image of what you say. fox, they are fair and balanced. they're giving you the new. they're not doing what msnbc is doing. she is saying exactly the opposite. >> who has the facts on their side? who is dealing with the facts? we are not just screaming at each other. one is screaming facts and truth. one side is screaming their version of truth which is religious based nonsense. >> will you grant me at least this much, ann, that there has the been a coarsening of the dialogue in america? >> no.
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>> no? >> i think we just have both sides. >> you won't give me that. >> know, you just get the from the other side. liberals don't like it so you are screaming bloody murder. back when you thought we were living in peace and harmony. we just felt like we were under attack. >> people live in a bubble. liberals have their own bubble to a degree. i admit that. not as the bad as the conservatives. the people who wake up to a.m. radio and listen to rush limbaugh at lunch and sean hannity at dinner and only have fox news on, they live in a world outside of facts. >> what is the impact of right-wing radio, left wing humor, fox on one side, msnbc on the other side? what is the impact of people only hearing echos of what they already believe? >> i think it is a threat to our perfect union, i really do. whatever president goes to
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washington and says i am going to end the partisanship, going to end the politics of divisiveness, i don't believe them. i believe that the mechanism overlaid on it will not allow it. that -- that people tune in basically for the warfare. they're not interested in the fruits of peace. they're not interested in, it's bad television. who would want to watch that? >> all right, ted koppel, do a question, as one of the three remaining partitioners of the kindly evening newscast genre, do you think any of this splashed up against what we do for a living, first? >> sure. >> second, is it baked into our society? >> yes on both counts. remember the old line those who say it ain't about the money it's about the money. it's about the money. it's the fact that, our bosses for example, have had to close down most of the foreign bureaus
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that you and i knew when we were young correspondents. what works about cable television is it's cheap and it makes a ton of money. there is nothing cheaper than a bunch of talking heads. and the people who hire those talking head have discovered that the more partisan, the nastier they are, the bigger an audience they get. yes it has an impact on us. the only way it is ever going to change if the audience says you know something i am tired of it. >> i was going to start a shouting match with you. we have to go to a commercial break. thank you very much for your reporting, ted koppel. >> thank you, brian. >> good to see you, always. when we come back, remembering the epic battle seen in a whole new light today. the long, strange trip it has been for leading man status, for steve buscemi. he admits it makes it tougher when your own friends enjoy seeing you get killed. >> the moment i was killed. they start cheering. laughing. and guys, i am right here.
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welcome back. the battle of antietam was 150
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17th, 1862. it remains the bloodiest single day in u.s. military history. two days after the battle was we went along this time, joining him and thousand of re-enactors who gathered at the antietam battlefield outside sharpsville, maryland. >> that way. that way. that way. >> lincoln need to look right at me and hold absolutely still. >> as you can see this camera looks different than the digital camera you are familiar with. one, 1,000,000. two, 1,000. >> my name is richard barns, i am a photographer, photographing
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battlefield. in wet plate photography. the difficulty photographers faced during the war, they would have been dead if they had been on the field. their exposures were very long. 12 seconds. got to hold still for 12 second. when i say now. the important thing to remember about antietam, is 23,000 dead, wounded, or missing. confirmed 8,000 dead. never before on american soil have you had this many people killed at one time. i have discovered the people re-enacting the battles are extremely committed. >> shall we quote mr. lincoln "a nation with little regard for its past will do nothing in the future to be remembered." >> personally, i connect with history. important to be out here connecting with my personal history, including my family,
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who fought for the union army. >> forward march. >> brady and gardner, were the first photo-journalists on this continent. this is the first battle ever on american soil that had been photographed. alexander gardner arrived two days after the battle was over. this trench, the sunken road was filled with confederate dead at the time. he did not photograph during the battle. technology at the time didn't allow him to do that. that's what i am doing, bringing to this in a contemporary sensibility. i think brady and gardner would think i am a modern version of themselves. it is easy to find a camera like this, you can pick them up on e-bay for nothing. >> here we go, 12 second. starting right now. >> you might see a car in the background of my photographs. because i am not interested in replicating the past, not interested in nosnostalgia, i'm interested in the slippage of time where the contemporary and 150 years ago, some how coalesce
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and combine and overlap. what's important for me is the details, these details. this is a tarp. what i am trying to integrate into the photographs. this one came out really well. i need some smoke. and i think what it would have been like to be a civil war photographer. the stress that they were going through. i am happy that i am here photographing re-enactments and not the actual battles. with our thanks to richard barns and of course in memory of all those who lost their lives at antietam. next here tonight, harry smith with the story of the small town that trusted this woman with all of its money. now they wish they hadn't. >> it makes me furious to think what she has done not only to the citizens at large, but the people close to her, good, decent people. ♪ ♪ decent people. ♪ cated. nothing complicated about a pair of 10 inch hose clamp pliers.
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welcome back. this afternoon in the central authorities announced a 60-count indictment felony, felony indictment rather against a as harry smith reports tonight, this story of a local hero gone wrong has shaken just about everyone in a small town that for decade had pretty much decided in rita we trust. ♪ >> reporter: on summer nights, people still come to hear the dixon municipal band playing in the band shell behind the high school. dixon, illinois, the boyhood home of ronald reagan. people say this is the place young ronnie learned his values. a place where trust flows as gently as the waters in the rock
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river. [ applause ] dixon's mayor is is jim burke. >> at one time i was thinking about moving to florida. but i was on the way home, as i went down the street, i heard this voice yell, hey, grandpa. and it was one of my grandsons up on the porch playing with some kids. i thought that's why i am not leaving dixon. >> reporter: dixon, a place where your word is your bond. a place where trust has been part of the glue that held the town together, especially in the last few years. and despite all that dixon had to seem going for it, the city budget had been cut to the bone. no one who works for the town has received a pay raise in more than three years. debt is piling up town workers just buckled down and made do. >> they all got on board with us each year and knew that in order for us to survive there weren't going to be any raises. and not new hires and those
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things. just so we could get by with what we had. it didn't get any better. actually this last year it was actually, seemed even, more drastic in regard to maybe layoffs. >> reporter: how could things be so bad in a seemingly prosperous town. for decade dixon's budget was in the capable and hard working hands of one person. who is rita crundwell? >> well, rita crundwell, a very likable person. everybody around city hall liked her. she was very friendly. always had a big hi and hello. >> reporter: danny landloss is the chief of police. >> you had a question, go to rita. if you need something, go to rita. any time you have an expenditure of significance check through rita. everybody looked at her, she would fix any problem or take care of anything that needed to be done. >> reporter: she was the go-to gal.
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>> she was. rita crundwell grew up in dixon. she was on the homecoming court. belonged to national honor society and started working in city hall, part time as a 17-year-old student and ultimately became the city's treasurer comptroller. in her spare time, crundwell developed a more glamorous avocation, she built up a nationally famous quarterhorse farm right on the edge of town. >> congratulations to our newly crowned, world champion. >> reporter: rita owned 400 horses and became known coast to coast for her 54 world championships. a glimpse in a room reveals wall to wall trophies and award. >> bred by rita crundwell. dixon, illinois. >> reporter: it was as if rita crundwell was leading two lives. >> well, there would be stories floating around town that she sold a horse for $250,000. people in dixon assumed the horse business was making her
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rich. they were flatter that rita still worked so hard for her neighbors in dixon. >> what i thought she cared about the city. wants to see it through. she wants to be here to make sure everything goes well with the city. and that's what i believed. >> reporter: let me get this straight. >> uh-huh. >> reporter: you think her heart is so large and her -- faith and love and loyalty to dixon is so strong that even though she has this very successful horse business she is still working nose to the grindstone every day in city hall. >> no doubt. >> year after year, rita was the bearer of bad news. the town of dixon couldn't make end meet. sacrifices would have to be made. she would present the figures for the annual budget workshop and that showed it was going to be nip and tuck as far as how things would go. >> reporter: one day when rita was away at a horse show, a city employee discovered something suspicious. >> our city clerk brought a bank statement to me. and she said, i cannot connect
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this with anything. and i took a look at it. and i thought, this can't be. >> reporter: there in the statement was a rogue account. in it, hundreds of thousand of dollars that had apparently been taken from city fund. could it be that rita crundwell, the one-time president of the high school business occupations club, was stealing from the city? >> then i thought, well you know this small town, if we're wrong about this, she is going to get all sullied up, rumors will fly all over that there is something wrong with the money thing. >> shaken and nervous, the mayor could not ignore the evidence before him. so he called the fbi. >> i started to get sick to my stomach. i realized this was a big ripoff going on. >> reporter: from what you could see right there, how big did you think it was? >> i could see there was $775,000 had gone in and out of this account in one month of september. >> in one month?
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>> one month. >> reporter: what did the fbi then say to you? what plan did they come up with? >> first of all they wanted me to keep my mouth shut. >> reporter: he did just that. for 5 1/2 months, the fbi secretly scoured dixon's finances. all the while the mayor and clerk who tipped him off had to act business as usual. you are coming in here every day, you know what you know. you are looking at her, she must not have had any idea that you knew? >> oh, i don't think she did. i don't think she did. >> reporter: until the morning last april when the fbi came to city hall to pay rita a visit. >> she come wheeling right in this door here. and i said, good morning, rita. she said good morning. and i said three gentlemen would like to talk to you. one agent identified himself with the fbi we've got some questions to ask you. she said, sure. her face never changed emotion
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for anything. >> reporter: boy, ice in her veins. >> yeah. yeah. >> reporter: no tears? no hysteria? >> no. >> reporter: i didn't do this. >> no. >> reporter: it was far worse than anyone dreamed or could even imagine. according to prosecutors, the trusted comptroller misappropriated an astonishing amount of money. $53 million in transactions, over the past 20 years. i have to believe there are people in this town who say, mayor, you have been mayor here for more than a decade. how could you not know this? >> absolutely. absolutely. they'll ask that. you know this took place over, roughly almost a 22-year period. we had five city councils. three financial commissioners. three mayors. 21 annual audits. and no red flags surfaced, at
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least that anybody detected. >> reporter: perhaps the flags were hard to detect because they were so easy to see. prosecutors believe the money to run the horse business was coming from a modest office in dixon city hall. >> unbelievable actually. it sure is. >> reporter: missing was $53 million that should have gone to fixing things like the street under dixon's famous arch and providing raises for all of those loyal city workers. disbelief has turned to disgust. >> it makes me furious to think about what she has done. not only to the citizens at large, but the people very close to her, good, decent people. who trusted and who respected her. you know there is nothing worse than to have somebody that is close to you betray you like that. >> reporter: if you had a chance to talk to rita, what would you say to her? >> i would just look at her and shake my head at her and say, how could you, rita, how could you, how could you hurt so many people? how could you do this? put people's jobs and families at risk for your greed, for a horse? for a trophy?
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are you kidding me? i would tell her i hope you go to prison for the rest of your life. >> reporter: perhaps the music from the band will help people get over what happened here in ronald reagan's boyhood home. but they do well to remember something president reagan once famously said -- trust, but verified. >> harry smith is here. couple things to point out. she pleaded not guilty. and ignored our pleas for an interview. how do they allege she got away with this? >> the town has a mailbox at the post office and she volunteered to pick up the mail every single day. and somehow all of that mail that came back, except one tiny piece that had the -- proof of that one account. >> as the mayor tries in his own defense to point out, many blame at many administrations here over 22 years. >> right. the people in this town trusted her so much. the last person they would have
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suspected. they thought they were just in trouble like everybody else. but the town is going to get some of its money back. a big sale of hundreds of those horses this weekend. a lot of her property. so, they're going to get some of it back. but it will be more like pennies on the dollar. >> or oats. harry smith. thank you. a veteran actor knows a gunfight, fist fight, occasional bludgeoning. people are surprise to learn that steve buscemi is a former public servant. the back story of one of the best known faces of film and television -- after this. about thi country? trick question. i love everything about this country! including prilosec otc. you know one pill each morning treats your frequent heartburn so you can enjoy all this great land of ours has to offer like demolition derbies. and drive thru weddings. so if you're one of those people who gets heartburn and then treats day after day, block the acid with prilosec otc.. and don't get heartburn in the first place. [ male announcer ] one pill each morning.
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he didn't set out to be an actor.
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it was more whim than calling. but if he hadn't, we wouldn't have his performances in "fargo" or "reservoir dogs" or we wouldn't be as interested to meet the man who belongs to that famous face. he is an unmistakable presence. glaring down on his hometown from high above times square. and even before people talk about his acting most people mention that look, his looks. it's not usually good. >> he is kind of funny looking. >> what way? >> just funny looking. >> can you be any more spa sieve -- specific? >> i read descriptions, snagle-toothed, bug eyed. they always have to say that. okay. every time. >> after a while does it hurt your feelings? luckily your family loves you? >> they do. i was never that conscious of my looks. i don't know why. until i started reading abut my looks. i was like, is that, do i look like that? >> thus begins the list of
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things you need to know about steve buscemi, starting with his name. he pronounces it buscemi, although he learned later in life, the correct sicilian way is buscemi. and the big thing about steve buscemi is how often he dies. >> it's a heart attack. >> he has probably been killed more than any other big name actor of the modern era and he himself is at a loss as to why. why did you die so much? >> i don't know. you know, i don't know how i fell into playing these types of roles. it happened the first one was "miami vice" the tv show. i was cast as like a drug
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liaison, and i was roughed around by don johnson and willie nelson. of course i died in that. that just started, i guess i died well. >> does it haunt you? >> no, i don't, i don't, i don't think about it too much. >> part of the job? >> it is, yeah. a fun -- for a while a really fun part of the job. and after i was killed on "the soparons" by tony soprano. i vowed. okay. i will make this my last death. then michael bey offered me this role in "the island" i get killed halfway through the movie by an anonymous killer. and i'm like, okay, that will be the last one. and that was the last one. >> he has the played the weasely guy, skeef s can k skeevie guy, border line and full-on psychopaths, and it left him with little choice to embrace it and celebrate it on "snl." >> for a long time i played supporting characters, the
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creepy bellhop, the creepy homeless guy, or the creepy-creepy guy. >> but life may never be the same for steve buscemi because now he is a leading man. ♪ this is season three of "boardwalk empire" on hbo. steve plays enoch thompson. official title atlantic county treasurer. unofficially he runs his own mob in atlantic city. he does that through a thriving import business, importing booze during prohibition. his character draws from an actual figure back in the day and other greats and near-greats from that era come and go as well. including a young hothead from chicago named al capone. >> i'm making a statement. >> he has a lovely irish wife he can't trust and can't kill and she is at the top of a list of characters without one redeeming quality among them. >> i am not seeking forgiveness. >> the show is as dark as the
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rum he smuggles. there is either a murder or an aggravated assault every few minutes. the attention to detail is meticulous down to the city itself. they have moved atlantic city to brooklyn. this is beyond hollywood smoke and mirrors. this city is made of tractor trailers. over here is a blue wall made up of containerized 18-wheeler. >> yep. empty containers. they built the wall so they can cgi the ocean. >> on screen it plays big and vast and it is all fake, but looks so real. the real empire state building, visible while standing here, disappears on the tv version, where the hotel grows taller. the ocean comes to life. the boardwalk comes to life. down to the tiniest details in the stores and shops. including a strange little place, a curiosity back in the '20s designed to sell a skeptical public on in incubator
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for premature babies. explain the history again? >> you think that would have been made up. but this guy who invented the incubator, could not sell it to hospitals. and so he decided to just have an attraction on the boardwalk in atlantic city. >> it is all his "boardwalk empire" now. but the part of steve buscemi's story that a lot of us find most interesting happened years ago just across the river in lower manhattan. steve buscemi was a new york city fire fighter, assigned to engine 55 in the heart of little italy. he was the son of a civil servant who got on the fire department waiting list, took the test, went through the academy, and fought fires for a living. we met him back in his old engine company where like so many new york city firehouses, the first thing you notice is a memorial to that day. they lost a whole shift from here on 9/11. five firefighters including one, faust apostle who served with buscemi.
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>> such a surreal day for everybody. but when the numbers came in about the firefighters who were killed. the first number i heard was roughly 100. then it kept growing. that's what made it real for me. >> the number grew to 343 fire fighters lost. after 9/11, buscemi went back to his old firehouse and volunteered to work on the pile at ground zero just another guy on that solemn bucket brigade. and he went home each night covered in ash. he still comes back. he used to hide the fact that he was an actor because razzing is such a big part of fire fighting life. and he loves telling the story of walking into the old bar around the corner, the night he got whacked on the sopranos. >> the moment i was killed they start cheering. they start laughing. i've went, guys, i'm right here? what? no respect. >> he gets respect now, at least when he is playing enoch thompson.
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he likes that. >> he has class. people listen to him. he can give orders. and he can yell at people and not get hit. >> i'm making a goodwill gesture. accept it or not. >> as actors go, he is a scrappy, a fighter, an underdog, a city kid who then had to learn how to fight on camera. >> what's hard is not to add the sound yourself, you don't have to go -- okay, i won't go -- >> off the boardwalk he is a happy man. married 25 years, the father of a son. and these are great days on the boardwalk as well. if steve buscemi sound happy, it's probably because he hasn't died. >> nucky thompson? >> when we shoot all night and the sun comes up on the city. >> amazing. >> i love what you have done
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with the place. out onto the fake boardwalk. everything is right with the world. not atlantic city but as close as they get. our thanks to steve buscemi and for big-time boardwalk fans there is more of our guided tour. it's on our website as of tonight. that is it for tonight's broadcast of "rock center." and, it's that time, thanks to the magic of television, matt lauer and savannah guthrie have a preview of "today." >> brian, thank you. coming up friday on "today" the hispanic community's growing influence on madison avenue. >> a hit version of "call me maybe" the group live on the plaza when we see you friday on "today." >> thanks, guys. look forward to meeting you both some day. up next on "rock center" doing our part as part of the nbc-wide education nation summit. we were going to look at the provocative new component in education called grit. it's just what we think it means, about character, and failings. and it sure gets us away from
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the belief that all of our kids should get trophies. >> when i started teaching in the '90s, there was this sense that everyone had to be rewarded. where people didn't want kids to experience failure. >> i would say i don't trust anyone who hasn't failed. >> right. right. >> that's part of what we will have for you next week here on "rock center." so, for everyone who works so hard to bring you tonight's broadcast, thank you very much for watching and being here with us. for now, good night from new york. your late, local news begins next, a touching family story from the bay area. our exclusive interview with the parents of ambassador chris stevens. and a change to the shuttle schedule. the news is next. make a home-c. work, errands, a greasy bag of deep-fried easy. ♪ fortunately with hamburger helper's 40 varieties